Barnier denies trying to lecture UK over Brexit

The EU’s Brexit chief has denied telling an audience of top financiers that the UK must be “taught” about the costs of exiting the bloc.

“I said: #Brexit = occasion to explain single market benefits in all countries, [including] my own. We do not want to ‘educate’ or ‘teach lessons’”, Michel Barnier tweeted after media reports over comments he made at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy at the weekend.

Mr Barnier and his UK counterpart David Davis shared a testy exchange in front of the press last week following the conclusion of the third round of Brexit talks. Negotiations stumbled over Britain’s financial settlement, while Mr Barnier also accused the UK of still not knowing how the single market functioned for countries outside the bloc.

Following a meeting with Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for trade and foreign affairs on Monday, Mr Barnier repeated the need for “substantive” progress on divorce issues with the UK, notably on Northern Ireland.

Technical teams from the UK and EU side made progress on retaining the operation of the common travel area and keeping the acquired rights of citizens in Northern Ireland after Brexit last week.

While the talks were “fruitful”, Mr Barnier said any broader political solution to the Irish border issue would “have to be fully compatible with union law and the single market”.

“Our aim in the first phase is to ensure that the Common Travel Area, and the Good Friday Agreement…are not affected by the UK’s decision to leave the union”, he said.

Mr Coveney meanwhile warned Ireland was in a “uniquely vulnerable position” from any chaotic Brexit process given its strong economic and historic ties with the UK.

Brexit could have a “potentially extraordinary negative impact on Ireland, and the island of Ireland”, said the minister.

Martin Selmayr, Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff, said on Monday the leave vote was a “stupid decision” but said it was not the job of the EU to push for another referendum.

“Brexit is bad, and it’s a stupid decision. The only people who can reverse it would be the British people and I am not a dreamer, I am a realist. Brexit will happen on March 29, 2019″, Mr Selmayr told a conference in Brussels.

Image: AFP

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